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Diversity, harmony and equal opportunity are the cures for racism

In March 2017, another icon in the anti-racism struggle, Ahmed Kathrada, passed away.

A South African freedom fighter, he too, like Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned on Robben Island for twenty- seven years by the then racist apartheid government of South Africa.

Dr. Kathrada is mourned around the world as a voice of reason, justice, fairness and non-racialism.

In a speech Kathy, as he was lovingly named by followers, said of racism:

“Once it has contaminated the minds of otherwise sensible people, racism can be maddeningly stubborn and unresponsive to logic. Racism shaped our history and, I would say, that of the world, and it guides the present in powerful ways. It continues to dictate and influence the types of people we live near, go to school with, who we become friends with, fall in love with, marry, hate, fight and kill. It also influences our decisions about which people we help or neglect in times of need. In short racism squanders human potential.”

If we look over just the past three hundred years we find anti-racism stalwarts of all races like African American slave Sojourner Truth, John Brown a White man opposed to slavery, the huge actions of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the everyday work of anti-racism advocates worldwide and persistent present day voices like Canadian Stephen Lewis.

There are long lists of renowned anti-racism organizations on all continents like the un Human Rights Council yet when racism takes hold of a human mind it seldom lets go.

The struggle for racial equality in America has never ended. Aboriginal people, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians today and throughout history have faced open hostilities and prejudice and now religious minorities are persecuted as well.

Canada has not done much better with horrors like residential schools, the tragic case of Indian passengers on the ship Komagata Maru, today’s practice of police carding and the daily harassment of minorities.

So is there hope for racialized people in the west? From discrimination in workplaces, to housing, to government spy agencies, there continues to be embedded racism in every walk of life. 

Skin colour is something that all humans have and we have always been treated differently because of our skin colour.

Hence race has to be the largest, all-encompassing lens we use in the kaleidoscope of human equity. Within that complicated and constantly shifting kaleidoscope, we can add other human characteristics like age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, socio-economic status, language and ethnicity. So as we turn the lens of the kaleidoscope and see all the different permutations of human characteristics, skin colour stays as the one common characteristic that all humans have. Yet we have not mastered how to handle skin colour. Whichever country you go to, throughout the world, skin colour is used as a power currency to give you or take away from you, privileges and rights. No country is immune. Power is ravenously sought and ruthlessly claimed and skin colour is the easiest means. It is readily available to all bigots to see, attack, abuse and, in the halls of power and politics, to ignore or to institutionalize as legalized racism.

The internet is full of suggestions to eliminate racism and there are some outstanding local initiatives in schools, churches, neighbourhoods and yes, even in the halls of parliament. But racial stereotyping, hate and prejudice are qualities that, as Kathrada said, contaminate human minds and squander potential. So maybe the answer lies in marketing racial equality in terms of profit potential. Diversity, harmony and equal opportunity for all would create robust economies. Treating all people with dignity will help them realize their potential. Hence all countries would profit by way of business dollars. As well, in providing opportunity for the brain-power and genius of all people to thrive, we might eliminate diseases, counter environmental disasters and create level playing fields for everyone to work together.

- Dr Vicki Bismilla

Posted: May 2, 2018

May 2018





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